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Project Prometheus

Low cost, self-sustaining alternative* for higher education.
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*edited title to read alternative instead of replacement.

Imagine a system of education, supported by direct donation and advertising, where you could get the equivalent of a college education at little or no cost to you. I'll go over some of the resources and then give a framework of how the whole system should work.

Resources:

-moodle is a free, open source, online education platform into which it is possible to plug in educational modules. It runs on a webserver with php and sql. I think there are also installations for running it standalone on windows and mac. With this, someone should be able to take these classes without a teacher, either on a website, or by downloading the modules to their computer. This makes education available (such as at library computers) and relatively cheap.

-there are already many open source moodle modules available, and they are relatively easy to create.

(note: the system does not have to be moodle, but moodle already has a large following, so it might be easier to implement.)

-there are already several private industry certification agencies which charge for testing an individual's knowledge of particular subjects (A+, etc). These agencies rely on their reputation for accurately representing that knowledge through certifying these individuals. If they are lax in their testing, their reputation suffers, and they lose money or go out of business.

-the private sector needs intelligent, educated individuals with marketable knowledge and skills. If the individual with these has a 4 figure education debt, instead of a 6 figure debt they can afford to work for less, initially, until they gain experience and justify a higher salary from their employer. If businesses can be convinced to accept these certifications and give them the same (or more) "weight" as a university degree when hiring, the system becomes self-sustaining.

This system has 3 beneficial side effects.

1. Nobody has to take the certification tests, so it is possible to get just the education part for free (no one can credibly argue against increasing the general education level).

2. The cost of a traditional college degree should go down, as the colleges compete for students.

3. No one is forced to take liberal arts and social awareness classes that serve little or no purpose but indoctrination and padding of university coffers.

Framework:

I would suggest that anyone should be able to submit modules for the "university", but that the certification agencies choose which classes are covered in their certifications. These classes would become the "course" to follow to get the particular certification. (e.g. psychology, accounting, statistics, etc. could be part of an advertising certification)

Here is how the thing would work from the student's point of view:

Bob goes to the website, and either downloads the standalone package, or registers at the site. He goes to the site of one of the certification agencies, and sees that for an advertising certification, the agency recommends that he take a particular psychology course, any accounting course, one of 3 recommended statistics courses, a writing course, and a sociology course. He finds the courses, signs up for them, and starts studying. During his studies, he connects with his "classmates" through forums and chat rooms (this is an opportunity for students or businesses to make money tutoring).

An undetermined length of time later, Bob (after aceing the quizzes for his classes) goes to a testing facility run by the certification agency. There, he pays $1000 (or whatever price the test is) and takes the test. Assuming he passes the test, he then applies for a job where one of the requirements is an advertising degree, or certification from a list of reputable agencies.

He gets and interview, and is able to get the job. He was as qualified as the other applicant who went to a traditional university, but he was able to accept a much lower salary, due to his lack of education debt.

------------------------

Sorry for the long post, but there was a lot to cover.

What problems do you see with such a system?

How could these be overcome?

Whom can be contacted to get this plan in motion?

Comments are VERY welcome.

copycat042, Feb 25 2012

Somewhat baked? http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
MIT Open Courseware [AntiQuark, Feb 26 2012]

The universities this system would replace http://thedoghousediaries.com/3416
[Psalm_97, Feb 27 2012]

The Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org/
[RayfordSteele, Feb 27 2012]

Also this https://www.ai-class.com/
[mouseposture, Feb 27 2012]

'varsity reminiscences http://www.webofstories.com/
and much else of interest. [mouseposture, Feb 27 2012]

[link]






       Bun for the concept, but I wonder who is going to be qualified to make a moodle module for most of the "classes" and do it for free?   

       And I bet library computer banks would get very crowded. And very hectic, and a lot of people losing their tempers. "You don't understand, I gotta get this next chapter done NOW!"
Psalm_97, Feb 25 2012
  

       "Bun for the concept, but I wonder who is going to be qualified to make a moodle module for most of the "classes" and do it for free?"   

       There are lots of free moodle courses out there, already. (moodlecommons.org) The certification agencies might even create courses for their particular certifications. think of it as "advertising". This, by itself, could be problematic. but if you couple it with businesses choosing which certification agencies they will accept, you have the agencies competing, not only for the students' money, but also for recognition as a "reputable" agency by businesses who are spending money on the people who are certified.
copycat042, Feb 25 2012
  

       Is the Open University in the UK recognized as an accredited university? (Or whatever they call accreditation over there.)
Psalm_97, Feb 25 2012
  

       on Open university: Probably not accredited with regard to transferring credits to a traditional college or university. This IMHO is a failing in the current system that serves, primarily, to increase the price of education by forcing the student to take (and pay for) classes which he has already taken. I ran into this problem when switching colleges.   

       My idea focuses on the outcome of the education, mastery of the subject, not the process of gaining the education. Theoretically, you could take the accreditation tests, without ever having taken any of the courses. If you know your subject, who cares where you got your information?
copycat042, Feb 25 2012
  

       //If you know your subject, who cares where you got your information?//   

       Lots of people. There is still a lot of importance on wearing a Harvard tie. I'm not saying this is right, but that's how it is. If you went to Yale or Harvard or (fill in name of really prestigious college here) people think you can do the job better for some reason.   

       That's the second reason I gave this idea a bun. Maybe if it were implemented it could change all that. Gonna be hard making the transition though, might even have to wait until some CEOs get old enough to die out.
Psalm_97, Feb 25 2012
  

       //Gonna be hard making the transition though, might even have to wait until some CEOs get old enough to die out.//   

       Agreed. The social "inertia" is going to be the biggest obstacle.   

       I think that one of the strengths of the system is that it has aspects that appeal to wildly different segments of the population. The more collectivist members of society will like the access to free education aspect, while the individualists will like the increased competition and the efficiency that more choices brings. Ideally, the system extends all the way into the primary school systems, as well, competing with the public school system, forcing each to be more efficient. That would be much farther into the future, though.
copycat042, Feb 25 2012
  

       Maybe not so far as you think. Wikipedia seems almost a precursor. ;)
Psalm_97, Feb 25 2012
  

       It will happen soon I am sure.
pocmloc, Feb 26 2012
  

       The advantages of university education include hands-on experience, low staff-student ratios, networking, establishing social contacts and face to face interaction. You need to be able to bounce ideas off real people. The rest of it you can either do independently or the reason you can't is an artificial barrier. When i say hands-on, i'm including things like access to particle accelerators. There are a number of other advantages and universities don't always seem able to provide them. The reputation of your chosen educational method with others is also sometimes important if isolation is an issue for you.
nineteenthly, Feb 26 2012
  

       The University system as a lot of parallels with the late medieval Church, an international system that dominates the field and squeezes out alternatives. I also suspect that Reformation is just around the corner.
pocmloc, Feb 26 2012
  

       If we weren't all about to die, it would be. The elder child having reached adulthood, my speculations on higher education have come more to the fore.   

       The OU credit system is a grumble of mine. They wouldn't accept any of my previous higher ed, even the psychology degree level stuff into a degree in the same subject, both being recognised by the BPS. Moreover, in spite of the fact that it was claimed by the now defunct College of Phytotherapy that they had gone through a process enabling credit transfer between them and the OU, they didn't recognise any of my qualification in herbal medicine in spite of claims that they would by various other bodies, including the University of Wales. Nor did they accept that my Masters or my first degree had any transferability value. I'm really peed off about this.
nineteenthly, Feb 26 2012
  

       [-], mainly because university is much much more than learning how to answer questions from textbooks.
AntiQuark, Feb 26 2012
  

       It is if it's any good. But this isn't necessarily a replacement for the *good* universities.
mouseposture, Feb 26 2012
  

       This system would replace the bad universities. [link]
Psalm_97, Feb 27 2012
  

       Online haircut. Well, that's the point, you can't.
csea, Feb 27 2012
  

       // university is much much more than learning how to answer questions from textbooks //   

       Obviously you and I attended different universities. I'm assuming you finished, whereas I did not, in part because I was tired of being a parrot.   

       I dropped out and earned a degree at a technical college instead, where the goal was largely learning how to re- create material results from the instructors' examples; same theory, but more fun.
Alterother, Feb 27 2012
  

       "university is much much more than learning how to answer questions from textbooks. — AntiQuark"   

       This is the type of feedback the project needs. What additional elements does a traditional university provide, that the same education online cannot provide?
copycat042, Feb 27 2012
  

       "The University system as a lot of parallels with the late medieval Church"   

       I have found this to be the case. It is also beginning to infect the public school system down into elementary school. For example, my son is in 5th grade, and is learning to write 3 paragraph essays. The logic is that he will need to know how to write 5 paragraph essays in middle school. The logic there is that he will need to write longer form-factor essays in high school. The logic there is that he will have to write ever more longer essays for college, up to writing research papers. No one has given me a satisfactory answer as to why someone outside of academia would need to be able to write a standard form essay, or a research paper except for possibly journalism.
copycat042, Feb 27 2012
  

       //3 paragraph essays// reminds me of a programming course I took where program levels all had "beginning"(set stuff up), "middle"(iteration), and "end"(clean up).
FlyingToaster, Feb 27 2012
  

       // What additional elements does a traditional university provide, that the same education online cannot provide? //   

       Ask a surgeon!   

       Even in electrical engineering, along with the theory we had to get our hands dirty with some real-world stuff. It was amazing that some people were theoretical geniuses, but didn't know what that theory meant when applied to an actual device.
AntiQuark, Feb 27 2012
  

       From the title I would have guessed this was a program to teach monkeys to start fires.
ldischler, Feb 27 2012
  

       [copycat042] I believe the reason for a formulaic approach to teaching essay-writing (3-paragraph, 5-paragraph, etc) is this: Very few people have enough of the right kind of intelligence to express, coherently, ideas of much complexity, without being given some sort of crutch. The solution, for the majority of students, is to teach formulas. For the less-talented, when they need to explain, or convince, they can get a reasonable result by slavishly following the formulas.   

       And ordinary people -- neither academics nor journalists -- do have a use for such skills. Ordinary people compose memos to their bosses arguing in favor of particular policies, or Letters to the Editor complaining of potholes, or applications for Arts Council grants, or cover letters for resumes, or statements read aloud at town meetings. And so on.   

       Formulaic teaching goes over badly with the more intelligent parents of the more intelligent kids, but in fact, it needn't hold the stronger students back. The idea is, they master the basic techniques, and go on from there, increasing the sophistication of their style. This is a bad idea if you think someone who paints in an abstract style is the worse for having classical drawing skills; I myself believe the opposite.   

       re: what elements a traditional university provides that ought to be replicated, somehow, in an online replacement, here's one that comes quickly to mind: a common theme in the reminiscences of people with really good formal education is that they learned as much from their peers as from the faculty. This is closely related to the fact that such universities are highly selective, so, if you make it in, your peers group is enriched in remarkable people. So, how do you replicate that online?   

       Large size, and low standards are a problem for this "learning from peers" thing. Most large educational institutions subdivide themselves in one way or another, to create smaller subsets of students who interact with each other more frequently than they would if diluted in the larger mass. Some US "state" universities mandated to keep admission requirements low, for in-state students, create internal "honors" colleges, for the better students, so that they interact with each other more, and with the other students less. The idea being that this improves the quality of their education, though, of course, it deprives the other students of that (presumed) benefit. The problem's not unique to The Prometheus Project, but it would be worse, because there would be less extracurricular inter-student interaction. You couldn't have a life-changing conversation with someone you met in the laundry room, for example, since there would be no laundry.
mouseposture, Feb 27 2012
  

       On essays: I will take your word for it, but I have yet to see many practical applications of the formula.   

       //This is closely related to the fact that such universities are highly selective, so, if you make it in, your peers group is enriched in remarkable people. So, how do you replicate that online?...You couldn't have a life-changing conversation with someone you met in the laundry room, for example, since there would be no laundry.//   

       Remarkable in what way?   

       You are a remarkable person. We are having a conversation which has the potential to spark a revolution in education and we probably aren't even in the same state.
copycat042, Feb 27 2012
  

       //Remarkable in what way.//   

       Unfortunately, I cannot teach you the answer to that question on the internet: It's something I learned from peers, in various educational institutions. (If you want a less flippant response, try <link>.)   

       You seem to want an argument: my comment was meant to be helpful, in response to your question. The peer-education effect probably can be replicated online: and you need to think about how to do that. I've mentioned a couple of partial solutions to the problems, and a couple of obstacles to be overcome.   

       //You are a remarkable person. We are having a conversation// No, you are not having a conversation with a remarkable person, unless "remarkable" means "special" as in "everybody's special," a sentiment with which I disagree.
mouseposture, Feb 27 2012
  

       "Remarkable" in a higher-education context clearly relates to dry erase pens and supplementary exams.
spidermother, Feb 28 2012
  

       // unless "remarkable" means "special" as in "everybody's special," a sentiment with which I disagree. //   

       <Tyler Durden>   

       You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake; you are the same decaying human waste as everyone else. We are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of humanity.   

       </Tyler Durden>
Alterother, Feb 28 2012
  

       @mouseposture I apologise for any argumentative tone. I am used to adversarial conversations to solve problems (drives my wife crazy).
copycat042, Feb 28 2012
  

       I think that might be a common trait here.   

       There may be a connection between how concerned an institute is in keeping control over the content created by its employees and the quality of other aspects of the educational service it offers. MIT and other places are willing to put their stuff on the internet for free but some other places are very protective of their intellectual property, i suspect because it's all they have to offer due to bums on seats and the poor employment prospects of their students. It might also be that they want to protect rather crap course content from prying eyes who might then realise how bad it is.   

       However, that process does possibly make it clearer what is of value in a university education because it's whatever it is the more secretive colleges lack. One of those things is an old boy network, but there are several others which are less contentious.
nineteenthly, Feb 28 2012
  

       Perhaps if a professional took the time to write a course that was accredited by some organization, he or she could get a tax writeoff. That would probide the motivation for people who actually know what they're talking about to write high qulity courses.
DIYMatt, Feb 28 2012
  

       On tax write-offs: Ideally (IMHO), we avoid getting government involved in the system, even peripherally.   

       The businesses which accept the accreditations would have an incentive to ensure the quality of the content, possibly to the extent of writing some of it, themselves. Educators could compile quality courses as a way to attract customers for tutoring services. There are also a few people who would probably donate their talents because they enjoy the process, or believe in the cause.
copycat042, Feb 29 2012
  

       //There are also a few people who would probably donate their talents because they enjoy the process, or believe in the cause.//   

       Why not, it works for a lot of other open source software. But considering some of the OSS I've tried, you might want some quality control...
Psalm_97, Feb 29 2012
  
      
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